John Speller's Web Pages Lancaster to Morecambe & Heysham Electrification

John Speller's Web Pages - Midland Railway
Lancaster to Morecambe & Heysham Electrification MR Horizontal Menu Untitled
Richard Mountford Deeley (1855-1944) is best remembered today as the designer of the famous Midland “Compounds”. He had become Chief Electrical Engineer of the Midland Railway in 1903, even before he succeeded S. W. Johnson as Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Midland Railway in 1904. He was a fine scientist as well as an engineer and he carried out pioneering work in the study of the inert gases, meteorology and glaciation. The obstinate clinging of the Midland Railway to its dangerous “small engine” policy, which was to lead to the deadly Hawes Junction accident of 1910, and his frustration with Midland Railway senior management unfortunately led to his resignation in 1909. One wonders what he thought when his successor Sir Henry Fowler resigned under similar circumstances in 1933.

In July 1906 the Midland Railway announced its intention to electrify their lines between Lancaster, Morecambe and Heysham. In planning the electrification project, Deeley got things right all the way. He adopted the German 6,600V AC overhead system, which could be used for high speed express lines as well as for local lines such as used the DC third rail system. The Midland Railway’s Derby works built three 60’ motor coaches – two with electric equipment from Siemens in Germany and the third with electric equipment from Westinghouse in the USA. Derby built three driving trailers, and two trailers for the center of the trains, while a third was modified from existing stock. These could be run either as 3-car sets or using two together as 6-car sets. Most of the overhead equipment was supported by telegraph poles of Norwegian fir, but between Lancaster Castle station and the junction with the Green Ayre branch, where the Midland ran over LNWR tracks, the LNWR insisted on the use of steel gantries. The Midland Railway’s generating station at Heysham, previously built for working cranes and other equipment in the docks, was used to supply the power at 6,600V AC 25 Hz.

The Heysham to Morecambe line was opened to electric trains on 13 April 1908, followed by Lancaster Green Ayre on 8 June 1908 and Lancaster Castle on 14 September 1908. The electric multiple unit trains achieved an availability of 99.63% in their first year of operation, a reliability unprecedented on a steam railway, and indeed on electric and diesel ones as well. The units operated magnificently until their withdrawal in 1951, after which diesel traction was introduced.

1913 Railway Clearing House Junction Diagram of Lancaster & Morecambe
Interior of the power house
Westinghouse power car (top) and Siemens power car with two trailers (above) on the Heysham Branch in 1908
Morecambe Promenade Station in 1933. Today only a single set of rails remains
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